Bring on the loneliness, the incendiary thirst, the gnawing hunger, the near certainly of a relatively slow death!
I’ll take this, so the speaker of a proverb about domestic life stakes his claim, than live comfortably with that woman … :
Better to live in a desert than with a quarrelsome and ill-tempered wife. (Proverbs 21:19 NIV)
Though spoken completely from a man’s point of view, the proverb’s roles are easily reversed. A ‘quarrelsome and ill-tempered husband’ is just as adept at draining the joy from comfort and companionship.
There is a desolation that is internal and interpersonal, a constant, aching bereft-ness that makes the real thing, out there under the sun among the dunes, seem a comfort by comparison. A plural in the Hebrew text’s construction disappears in translation but is perhaps worth rescuing: She is a woman of contentions and anger.
You can draw her picture in terms of true singular, volcanic rage at the core (‘and anger’). Or you can sketch her by the constant flow of a thousand small complaints, or ‘contentions’.
Either way, the man or the woman who lives like this becomes unbearable. Please, a desert! Anywhere but here with this screeching noise!
We are made to make some choices only once, or at least seldom. The person with whom we share a home is one of them.
A quarrelsome and ill-tempered person can successfully hide these qualities behind charm and appeal, for they tend to reach full flow only after a period of time, when the big decisions have already been made. The wedding photos have become available, the partner has moved in, the furniture has become blended, a child is on the way.
Then, a mouse-like squeak signals a noise that will in time become a lion’s roar.
The proverb’s burden is to remind the reader who wants to make durable decisions that this one will be hard to get right. The downside on a bad choice is, well … you’ll wish you were somewhere else.